Young children are reaching puberty earlier with the average age dropping from 15 a century ago to 12 today. About 1 in a 1000 young boys and girls are experiencing puberty as early as 8 or 9 years old. Early onset puberty (also known as precocious puberty) has a number of troubling side effects which include a greater risk of anxiety and depression, eating disorders, thyroid problems and cancer.
When early-onset puberty happens to boys, their physical growth has to compete for resources; puberty wins out and that may mean they are much shorter than they should be. Boys who mature faster are at a greater risk of testicular cancer in later life.
Research shows that one of the biggest contributing factors to early puberty is the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are found in our foods, in plastics and in personal care products like shampoos and cosmetics.
Your endocrine system releases hormones which regulate the functioning of your organs, growth and development. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals either block or mimic our hormones and prevent normal growth and development and interrupt the proper functioning of vital organs.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are insidious and can be found in everything from shower curtains to canned food. You can find a comprehensive list of endocrine disruptors here.
These chemicals are a contributing factor in precocious puberty. A study by the Korean Institute of Science and Technology found that “these six substances (MBP, t-OP, n-NP, daidzein, equol, and genistein) have an effect on precocious puberty.”
You can reduce the amount of endocrine-disruptors in your home by choosing organic foods and avoiding canned foods, fast food and food that has been treated with chemical pesticides.
Another contributing factor to precocious puberty is the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks. In a Harvard study of 5,600 girls, it was discovered that those girls who consumed 1.5 servings or more of soda and other sugary drinks a day had their first menstrual cycle 2.7 months earlier than those who consumed two sugary drinks a week or less.
From the study: “Starting periods early is a risk factor for depression during adolescence and breast cancer during adulthood. Thus, our findings have implications beyond just starting menstruation early.” High sugar intake has been linked to a number of behavior issues like aggression and problems concentrating as well as depression and anxiety.
Obesity has also been singled out as a contributing factor to precocious puberty. A recent study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center of 1,200 girls from 2004 and 2011 discovered that obesity contributed significantly to early puberty. From the study: “The girls who are obese are clearly maturing earlier,” said Biro. “BMI is, we found, the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.”
Healthy diets high in organic fruits and vegetables and free of sugary drinks, processed foods and fast food is the best way to ensure that your children develop normally. You can also opt for household goods and personal care products that are free of BPA, Phthalates and other known endocrine-disruptors.